bio cult(ure)

Sometimes the simplest, everyday things of life in Germany make me think about cultural differences. Take trash, for instance. One of the things I had to get used to in Germany was separating trash. Paper, compost, metal, green glass, brown glass, white glass, plastic, and all the rest. In my first year here, I had to ask all the time about where to sort things. A tea bag, for instance, has a paper tag and bag, it’s filled with tea, which belongs in the compost, the string might go in the “rest” bin, and the tiny metal staple connecting the tag to the string would go in the metal bin. (This is just theoretical… no, we don’t separate all these tiny parts…)

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We have 4 recycling stations like this within close walking distance from home.

At our apartment now, they only pick up paper, compost, and the rest, so we collect the metal, glass, and plastic all together and carry it to large recycling bins down the street and separate it there.

This everyday practice has become second nature to me, and I think it is representative of a larger cultural phenomenon in Germany: Bio- and Öko-leben. Organic and eco-friendly living. Germany is really green. Continue reading

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deco on a budget

I wrote several weeks ago about the challenges of apartment hunting in Munich and introduced you to our small (very empty, very white) attic apartment. Since moving in at the end of September, we’ve been busy making our place into a (colorful) home. We were lucky to get several major pieces of furniture from family: our dining table, bed, desk, and a cabinet. Julius already had bookshelves, and I brought… basically nothing for the apartment. I came to Germany with three suitcases containing clothes, shoes, two framed pictures, several books, and a couple of small, packable keepsakes. We considered having some larger things shipped from the States, but in the end, decided it wasn’t worth the cost.

So, we still needed a lot of things to make the apartment functional and attractive and cozy! We had wonderful friends and family give us generous monetary gifts for our wedding, so we had a budget, and a long list of things to buy. I think every couple setting up house together for the first time and every family that moves overseas and leaves their possessions back home is probably overwhelmed, even intimidated by their list when they total up all that they need. Where do you begin? And how do you find affordable things?

A few items had to be purchased right away. Our place didn’t have a refrigerator, so we placed an order for one immediately. We also needed a washing machine. eBay.de was the place for these. Both were “buy it now” items (no anxious betting), and the refrigerator shipped as a new item, while the washing machine just had to be picked up in Munich.

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When it comes to Ikea furniture, there’s something satisfying about saying, “We built that!”

Our first big shopping adventure was a trip to Ikea in Eching. We spent several hours on the web site ahead of time, making a list of things we wanted to see in person, and writing down the item numbers for things that we already knew we wanted. We ended up bringing home two shelves, a cabinet, a sofa, a chair… and a ton of little things (trash cans, kitchen items, etc.) Then we got to assemble it all! A second trip to Ikea a few weeks later was in order and we got dressers. They just have everything — even things you don’t know you need — and its all pretty affordable.

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Our updated kitchen cabinets

 

 

We’ve also found deals at our nearby Baumarkt (home improvement store). We got several lamps there on clearance. This is also a good place to buy brooms and mops and buckets and toilet paper holders. We also wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets and got all the necessary supplies and some much-needed advice there!

My favorite place to score deals on home items though is the Flohmarkt (flea market)! Continue reading